Expression. Exclusion. Exercise. Experience. Exposure.
This whole journey began in earnest when George (n.c.i.) came out and expressed his (g.c.i.) need to express himself as a girl. A dramatic moment, years in the making, ultimately culminated by way of a complete social transition. In a matter of days, all signs of boy clothing were gone, hair was growing (but not quickly enough) and the second ear was pierced. Finally able to express herself (n.c.i.) Jessie was, in so many ways, freed. While not gone, the internal struggle took a leave of absence and the outward anxiety was less about fear of repercussion and more about looking pretty, being well dressed and, well, expressing her true self.
In tandem with Jessie’s freedom, Rich and I faced (but mostly feared) the exclusion we were sure to encounter. Already feeling socially, emotionally and financially marginalized as a result of the years of angst we’d lived through, we both knew that we had just wholeheartedly supported our child diving into a half full pool. Comfortable in our decision, we were not so naive as to not feel a deep, aching concern that Jessie was going to take a dive, hit the bottom and crack her neck all in the name of self-expression. We prepared ourselves for haters, naysayers and critics…none of whom we have encountered. Yet.
Our child’s needs, our rights, our minds and our bodies ached for exercise. Jessie, in a manner only a kid could pull off, boldly walked into a teacher’s classroom and spilled the beans one Monday morning. She exercised her option to change her name, her appearance and her place at school with an air of confidence that would bring most adults to their knees. Quickly summoned into the school to elaborate, Rich and I knew enough about our rights as a family to face the issue head on and establish, from moment one, a partnership with the school administration which has, as of this writing, been an incredible (in every conceivable meaning of the word) experience. As the frenzied days slowed to a new normal, our minds and bodies risked becoming, in short order, overwrought, depleted and flabby. We bought up every book we could find on the subject (a particularly good one, considered “the bible” on this subject, is “The Transgender Child a Handbook for Families and Professionals” by Stephanie Brill & Rachel Pepper), tore up the internet with searches ranging from “transgender” to “is my kid transgender” to “how do we know if George is really a girl and needs to follow this feeling or is it something else, or a phase or oh my God, what do we do now?”. Some felt like exercises in little other than futility, while others proved a bit more helpful. So, when our minds were fried, off we went to the gym. Rich would run for miles on a treadmill and I (with lingering and infuriating remnants of the back that betrayed me) would walk in circles at the track for seventy-five minute stretches (the symbolism of each of us going like hell yet getting nowhere was not lost on us)in a somewhat vain attempt to clear our heads. Some days were decidedly more effective than others, yet we carried on.
The experience has been, well, an experience. At the beginning of all of this, a friend commented to me that this was going to be a journey as opposed to an event. Knowing full well what she meant, and agreeing with the basic sentiment, I broke it down a bit more in my mind as not only a journey, but a whole huge series of events and experiences…each completed unchartered. Oh, they have been chartered by some, but not by anyone I ever knew personally and only publicly (and eerily recently) by Chaz Bono who, by dint of being born to celebrities, in his early 40’s and having grown up on “The Sonny and Cher Show” had experienced things differently than we were going to. Nevertheless, his experience became a bit of a starting point for me and, I admit, I did read “Transition” until I couldn’t tolerate it any more — about halfway through. My reason for intolerance was twofold: it somehow bored me (perhaps that was because he was talking about things I had lived through already?) and, it felt like too much exposure.
And that is where I am now. Fearing being exposed. Ironic given my prolific writing on this subject (and trust me, a topic of great discussion with my therapist. Whom I love, by the way), right? The dictionary definition of exposed is “left or being without shelter or protection” which is, actually, not how I feel. To the contrary, I feel tremendous support from friends, acquaintances and strangers (granted, the “strangers” are all no more than two degrees of separation from folks squarely in my safety net) yet what if I have shared my candor, my fears and my journey and it all blows up in my, or worse, Jessie’s, face? What if, what if, what if. Is this all a dream – I mean, really, how crazyass is this whole thing? Is that which seems to appeal to people (my being so out there) in fact an error in judgement? Is there something to be said for going underground with this expression, this exclusion, this exercise, this experience? Or am I achieving what I aim for — doing right by my kid?